The most graffiti-scarred building in the city is in the heart of Bushwick — and it’s a public school. Graffiti vandals hit Intermediate School 349 on Starr St. 20 times last year, NYPD statistics show. “You can’t turn a corner without seeing graffiti around here. The city cleans it up and the kids just come and do the same thing all over again,” complained Patricia Bradford, who lives nearby.
“It’s not fair,” she said. “I live right beside a church and my house still gets tagged every summer. It’s bringing property values down.” Graffiti complaints in north Brooklyn neighborhoods like Bushwick, East New York and Clinton Hill rose 20% since 2007 and arrests for the scrawls increased 24.5%. The number of graffiti complaints includes calls from the public to report vandalism to the NYPD, as well as all graffiti-related criminal charges the NYPD files against suspects after they’re arrested.
Citywide, complaints and arrests rose about 10%, although not all Brooklyn neighborhoods enjoyed the trend. In southern Brooklyn areas like Sunset Park, Coney Island and Borough Park, graffiti complaints rose by 9.7%, while arrests plummeted by 12.1% last year from their 2007 levels. “They should be doing better. We need to have some arrests so that we have an example and to show that we won’t tolerate it,” said Renee Giordano, executive director of the Sunset Park Business Improvement District.
Arrests for graffiti vandalism in Sunset Park’s 72nd Precinct fell by 15% in 2008 and graffiti complaints increased from 111 in 2007 to 130 in 2008. The story was similar in Coney Island, where 20 more complaints and 13 fewer arrests were recorded in 2008 as compared with 2007.
“We have to clean it up every day,” said Cisco Vale, 22, an employee at Nathan’s Famous hot dog eatery. “They mark up the bathrooms, the walls, the ceilings, everywhere. It’s inappropriate.” City Councilman Domenic Recchia (D-Coney Island) said 60th Precinct cops have been monitoring local gangs and recurring graffiti locations to combat the problem.
Yet keeping the streets graffiti-free is an uphill battle, because “as soon as we clean, it goes right back up,” Recchia said. Overall, south Brooklyn neighborhoods had the second most graffiti complaints, after the Bronx, last year, followed by Queens and northern Brooklyn areas. Community leaders and local politicians say more complaints means more residents are reclaiming their neighborhoods. “Once we clean it, people want to see cleaner streets and they’re filing complaints,” said City Councilwoman Diana Reyna (D-Bushwick, Williamsburg.)